Mantodea: Thoughts On A Toxic Friendship

The Wishing Tree, Yoko Ono, Hirshorn Museum Sculpture Garden

My wish: I wish for healthy, supportive, positive relationships that strengthen local, sustainable communities.

Dear Reader:

I have this friend, let’s call her Mantodea. Mantodea is the queen of the underhanded cutting remark. The empress of sneaky “take-it-two-ways” observations. The undisputed champion of the wait-for-the-right-moment-and-strike-when-nobody-is-looking emotional attack. Often, when the attack is launched, you don’t even feel it at first. By the time the sting sets in, you try to remember what is was that she said. Most often, you can’t remember. Not exactly. The remarks are all so fast and blurry and out-of-the-blue and off-the-wall and definitely uncalled-for that they slip in, do their dirty work, and slip away again.

She waits for the right moment, disguised as a friend, then she pounces like the predator she is, and you, my dear, are the prey. She’s bitten your head off before you know it.

For years, I have put up with this behavior, excusing it as either artistic temperament, social retardedness, a bad case of running-of-the-mouth disease. I’ve even questioned my perception. Was I just being paranoid? Imagining slights where there were none intended?

But, no. I’ve seen her attack other people, slipping in a little barbed comment with some sweet-on-the-outside smile. Now she’s begun to make similar comments to the Teen–sometimes in my presence but more often when I’m not around.

Hello. Teenage girls do not need their flaws pointed out. They are well-enough aware of every quarter-inch of adolescent fat, every acne spot, every teeny, tiny imperfection–very often imagined and almost always exaggerated.

As a mom, it’s hard enough working against magazine images and music videos and a culture that equate thinness with beauty. Hard enough trying to tell your daughter she’s beautiful just the way she is without some insecure, middle-aged mantis telling her in so many words that she is not whatever . . . thin enough, athletic enough, popular enough. . . or even thin-fingered enough!

I think she’s crossed the line into crazy.

Over the years, Mantodea has alienated most of the women in her circle. She used to have a large group of women-friends in her neighborhood, moms of her daughters’ friends, co-workers, and neighbors, but over the years, one by one, they have all drifted away.

There’s been alot of press lately about toxic friendships. An article in WebMD says:

“The phrase ‘toxic friend’ is pop psychology,” says Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I would say it’s someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you — sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally, and they’re not very good for you.”

A toxic friends counts on you to put up with her digs. She banks on the fact that you might not want a confrontation. She couches her attacks in language that seems rather innocuous. Her words are like that corn-starch clay kids make in craft-class . . . they appear solid but when you try to grasp them, they run through your fingers leaving you with an empty hand. Still, you know what you know. She’s toxic. She makes you feel bad. She undermines you in little ways. She pulls the rug out from under you and tee-hee’s when you stumble and then puts on an innocent face and says, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

I don’t buy it. Life is too short to put up with toxic relationships. I don’t want to subject myself to her subtle put-downs anymore, and I certainly need to protect my daughter. Good friends support each other. Good friends help each other. Good friends accept you for who you are and build you up, encourage you in your endeavors, help you to be the person you want to be.

As we move toward a more local economy and closer-knit communities, it will be even more important to treat others with respect and care. Otherwise you may find yourself alone, cut-off. Neutralized.

There is the old saying that whenever you point one finger, four others are pointing back at you. As I release this toxic friendship, I am determined to be more aware of the energy I bring to my other relationships, to be ever-mindful that my positive or negative energy affects those around me, and then to act in ways that are uplifting, encouraging, and supportive.

Toxic friendship, you are hereby neutralized.

Ahhh, the air feels clearer already . . .

8 responses to “Mantodea: Thoughts On A Toxic Friendship

  1. Most likely Borderline Personality Disorder. I am a survivor of a toxic relationship with a particular family member, and it sounds EXACTLY like this. Best of luck with this scenario, and if I were you, I’d steer clear of the toxic relationship.

  2. I have known people who are “toxic”. It is very difficult (if you are any kind of decent person) to not want to be the one who models a better kind of relationship for them. But the reality is that many (if not all!) of them have deep-seated problems and will never respond in healthy ways to friendship until those deep problems are brought to the forefront and worked on diligently. It is an unfortunate reality.

  3. Good topic! Good way to purge yourself as well!

  4. I know what you mean! I have experienced this so many times over the years, and being who I am, I would try to make the friendship work, and feel guilty that I could not make the other person see how damaging their attitude was, But there comes a day when you say, “enough is enough” and you move on…and you always, always feel so much lighter afterwards, that you think, “Why did I not remove myself from this situation sooner!?” I choose positive people, yes I do! 🙂

  5. Let’s all band together in a kind of “golden rule” club–do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We really can’t go wrong with that one.
    Thanks for commenting (and reading). It’s always nice to know I’m not shouting in a vacuum, and I really do appreciate my friends who support my endeavors. You gals rock!!

  6. You are awesome, Shelley! (And your beautiful teen, too.) We all want to be loved and appreciated and supported. Who has time for anything other than that?

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